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To The Ground

Hey guys, I just got back from an overnighter and my initial attempt at tarp camping. I'm a hammock guy, why am I a hammock guy? Site selection, hills roots, rocks no problem. Mud, ain't no mud in the air between them thar trees. Crawling and slithering things down on that ground too, they don't like my permethrin soaked hammock suspension or bugnet. COMFORT!!! I like comfort who doesn't?

Back to by initial foray with the tarp. So I was challenged to go to the ground, and I really don't have that gear other than a beastly tent and I'd like to stay out of camp grounds. I decided to take my 5' x 7' walmart coated tarp for ground cover(10 oz.), a Bias Buginator (9.5 oz.), a Warbonnet SpinnUL Edge tarp (10.5' x 7.5') with door kit and guys (18 oz.) for my shelter. 2.3 lbs., not good but I'm improvising here. If it would have been fair weather I would have taken my 5 oz. diamond tarp that would have got me to 1.35 lbs. but wet if it rains.

Sleeping pad (1.5 lbs.) 35* TQ, (20oz.), bag liner for a sheet (10 oz.), 3.38 lbs. not great but use what ya' got right?

The walmart tarp is rigged with shock cord on all 4 sides, I used it as a under quilt protector and in warm weather by itself. The shock cord came in handy, I used a stick as a toggle and ran the 2 ends at each corner to the tarp tieouts which raised the edges of the ground cover tarp up like the bath tub floors of tents. I hadn't expected that! The buginator was rigged with it's own suspension low to the ground with one end quite low and the other just high enough to sit in comfortably just below the tarp which was hung with the lower doors completely closed and the other doors several inches apart. The doors connect to their stake with shock cord to make entry/exit easy. The sleeping pad would be placed on top of the bugnet's oval shock cord entry/exit that would not be completely closed just as it would be rigged for a hammock.

I was semi-excited about the rain in the forecast and wondering how well this thrown together rig would work. The rain true to forecast would begin about 5 am, light but with short burst of showers. It was daylight and this would help if I needed to adjust or bail. Though bailing would be a walk of a little over 4 miles, but I've got a poncho and boots if I failed. I had not tried to set this up before the trip so I was unsure if it would work. I had tied the bugnet up low to see if that would work and it did.

The bugnet would prove to be a success, the only site at Kings Mountain National Park is leafy and there are plenty of spiders and bugs enjoying that habitat, several spiders and bugs treked across the ground cover during setup. But none entered the permethrin treated bugnet, I did spray ground covers edge with deet after setup. Victory there. 

The morning rains proved the setup would work, but I needed a dripline on the bugnet suspension. That would dampen the foot end of my TQ and the foot end of the pad right at the doors also got wet, I stayed dry, my gear stayed dry and I considered that another victory.

Positives I took away, the ground CAN be dealt with, I even liked the ground level visibility, and I know this method could be employed with the proper gear to go very light. 

Negatives, THE GROUND!, it ain't level, it ain't hospitable and it's the GROUND, the muddy ground, some place all campers, camp dogs, and critters PEE! 

But seriously it was enjoyable, but the only permitted camp site there has few options and none of those are level, and leveling the earth is hardly leave no trace compliant! 

I'm really not here to evangelize for hammock camping, but for me I find not only is that the path of least resistance, it is the best way to leave no trace and the most comfortable and most flexible way to sleep in the woods. I find hammocks really simplify things add a tree table and a canister or alcohol stove it can be like you were never even there.

I plan on adding a larger tarp to my gear box, maybe a 12' x 10' with doors which should be up to the job of tarp camping, something like a Warbonnet Superfly. What do you tarpers think would that type of tarp lend itself to tarp camping?

The bugnet is my real question, I just have to have one, large enough for 2 with zippered entrance and a silnylon floor. What do you guys use? I don't think I want to get past this requirement, I'm no cowboy and this is 2015 so I don't have to camp like one. 

I look forward to any suggestions or comments.



D/W, thanks for the particulars--very helpful.  I am just getting started in tarp and hammock camping, so I don't have much to add except that I'm seeing your kind more and more everywhere I go.  I don't hear many people mention the permethrin treatment.  By what ratio do you dilute the permethrin, and do you soak or spray?  Thanks for sharing--I'm ready to get off the ground!

You are most welcome. IMO just skip the tarp. What do you mean MY kind? ;) If you mean those who choose a comfortable downy nest over the never flat ground, OK that does sound a lot like me.

Imagine you just solo hiked a beautiful trail, took in a picturesque view of miles of mountain tops and have enjoyed a few miles of down hill trail to your campsite a few hundred yards from the evenings relaxing concert performed by a small waterfall.

You set up your shelter for the night, it's been raining for days and the ground is a little soggy but you are convinced that the payoff of a great nights rest with the waterfall in the background is more that worth the soggy site. What happens next is up to you, you choose what sounds better for you:

A) You set up your UL tent with a height of 28" and after your meal you stoop down and waddle into your tent taking care not to let your knees touch the wet ground and settle in.

B) You set up your tarp 7' high, hang your hammock that has your top quilt already in it, your bugnet already in place, your under quilt already in place in a 10 liter dry sack. You open the sack and take out your straps in their own bag, using the roll top clips to hang the sack off one forearm you take one strap and wrap it around the tree with the other strap hung around your neck you connect your hammock loop to the strap cinch buckle and walk under the tarp feeding the hammock out of the sack as you walk, wrap the 2nd strap around the tree and attach the strap to the other cinch buckle. After 1 or 2 adjustments your hammock is hanging at chair height. You tarp is set up in porch mode facing the waterfall and you are walking under the tarp with ease and sit down in your hammock to relax for a few minutes before taking your food and tree table over to the bank of the creek to cook your evening gourmet or gruely meal.

As for the bug magic, I only spray my bugnet, hat and shoes with the permethrin, for my clothes I use deet or whatever else I find, the natural stuff Charleston area golf courses sell works great but I can't remember what it is, I pick it up about once a year or so.

The ground ain't's where our food comes from, and the animals and hikers make fertilizing deposits there all the time!

Check out this for a permethrin product that is reported to have no petroleum additives to harm fabrics and use the Sawyers ratios for mixing. KEEP IN MIND this AND Sawyers are made for horses to keep bugs off them and it is people safe when used as directed. ALSO KEEP AWAY FROM CATS, it is deadly to them. Many people soak their clothes and gear annually, but I'll pass on sleeping and sweating encompassed in chemical compounds as much as possible anyway.  So far I've used what we use on our big dumb animals, aka horses.

Premixed Sawyers:

Best of luck to you on getting off the fertile, rooty, rocky and never level ground. Check out hammock forums where folks freely share their wisdom on hammocks, rather than getting it from a rookie like me! I suggest with Shugs hammocks for noobs to start with a very informative youtube series with mucho laughs thrown in from a real clown!

Warning do not watch at work people will want to know what the heck you are laughing at!

I love the ground. Especially with a deep layer of pine needles.

A hammock is fine for people who have young backs that can sleep in a pretzel shape.

I now use a 2 1/2 pound cot.

My young back is 51 years old and that of a former 3 wheeler racer. NEVER, NEVER sleep in line with the hammock, but for those with allergies like me, when I and not laying diagonally across the hammock in the flattest sweet spot you can sleep with a slightly elevated head and chest. I however usually sleep with my legs just slightly elevated to aid with recovery to my tired and three wheeler battered legs.

I considered those "UL" 3 pound cots, but I prefer my comfortable 9 oz. bed. BTW, I converted to daily hammock sleeper, my nightly 10' (crinkle taffeta) long poly table cloth from for $12.

Pines needle covered ground IS AWESOME, it's like ICE, I  LOVE power sliding (what we used to call it) now it would be termed drifting thru the trees. That is HUGE FUN.

Seriously you might want to consider a tiny bit of research, I feel like I'm sleeping flat in a hammock unless I choose to elevate my legs or head. I used to toss and turn a fair amount but I find I can lay on my back for 6 to 8 hours easily in a gathered end hammock.

For a superior flat lay consider a bridge hammock adapted from what the US Navy used for many years.

Dirt...I think comparing ground shelters with hanging shelters too broadly gets a little tricky. I do generally agree that hammock camping is more comfortable after a few nights of adjustment...but I have had restless nights in a it is not a silver bullet...and there are a few who just cannot sleep in a hammock...diagonally or otherwise.

In places with trees and along bodies of water (where there are usually big green things to hang from)...or when soloing in comfort...I prefer my hammock. I have secured (very securely) my hammock 5-6 feet off the ground over a rocky beach covered in large piles of drift-wood overlooking a large clear-running spring. That experience would not have been possible in a tent or tarp...but I could only enjoy it while on a solo trip...because it is doubtful that additional hammocks would have been able to secure there as well...and sleeping with your significant other in the same hammock makes you less significant by morning.


I prefer my tarp set-up mostly for when I am lightweight backpacking with somebody I do not mind sleeping next to. You do need to be site-selective when using a tarp (mostly for weather)...but in regards to finding flat-ground it is usually a minor obstacle for me...and usually only requires scooting a bit of leaves/gravel/sand with my feet to make a nice pad to sleep on. I personally think you went a little light on the protection for tarp camping given the weather conditions you encountered...I would suggest a larger tarp for couples (10'x10')...and bivies are a necessity in wet and buggy conditions for me and nearly every girlfriend I have ever had accompany me (in fact...the bivy is a little too little for some). I agree with using what you have...but I made my bivy and my loaner bivy for less than 70.00...and there is no comparing them to a Walmart tarp (hint: make or buy your bivies larger than you need for additional dry floor-space).


JR, I did specify SOLO, but for me unless I'm with my wife I'm sleeping solo and almost always in a hammock, it may not be the best, it may not the lightest nor the most accepted, but it's my preferred.

It just seems cleaner, in every situation with big green things around, especially vrs. packing a tent that was in the mud or covered with debris or leaves. My hammock and most everything under the tarp, I have doors, gets wet. The tarp is the only wet piece. I especially like not having to crawl into my shelter, it just seems more civilized.

I also prefer the hammock for quick/easy exit/entry, not that I've had the need to, nor awesome ninja skills of I have to, but just because. I like my cat cut hammock with the tarp hung high and the improved visibility as I prefer fair weather camping most of the time. I bridge is in order sometime in the future for even better visibility and a flatter lay.

I have read about and heard from those who fail to find hammock comfort, and honestly that really surprises me, but for me that's just 2 more trees for me to choose from. I truly hate it for those who don't experience the ease and comfort of the hammock, but there are different strokes as they say. Just enjoy God's country with what you've got and how you like. For some that's a tent, others a hammock, others an RV and others a luxury hotel near a scenic drive.

It's all about what works best for you.

I may not give tents equal consideration but I have one pitched in the yard hoping it rains as forecast to test it out. Do I expect to be as comfortable as my hammock, nope, not even close, but I want to make sure it preforms as advertised.

I could have used a larger tarp, but I REALLY like that one, and you know what, it worked, I stayed dry, the TQ got a little damp but it's hyper dry and would have kept me warm the next night, I consider that a success. And it was a fun new experience, I learned I could use what I normally carry (other than a ground cloth I'd have to add and I think tyvek would be my choice) I could be on above the tree line.  BTW, the tarp I used was 10.5' x 7.5' and I had add on doors for both ends and could have set it up between 2 trees as an A frame tent with 2.5' interior height with the side wall all the way down to the ground.

I've never done the 6' high or tree top hang, try not to hang higher than I want to fall, when I hang on a slope try to sleep feet in the higher side.

I hope my comments have not been perceived as negative towards anyone, definitely not my intent. I like hammocks, and don't mind telling why, I like strawberries, and don't mind discussing the awesomeness contained in those most awesome flavor bomb! It's OK with me when folks don't enjoy strawberries, keeps pricing and availability good, and more tenters makes more trees to choose from.

I'd love to try one of those bat hammocks with a pulley system to hoist myself up like a bear bag! But my 4 wheeler is a racing model and doesn't have a winch with a remote.

Pitch You Own Shelter, PYOS, to alter a familiar hammock forum closing. It's all good, plenty of room out there in my experience.

I Hammock definately during the hot months of June, July, August, & September. Or anytime I'm in an area full of Cypress Knees like the one pictured below. My hammock lays almost completely flat on the diagonal, or I can sleep with my head higher with less diagonal.

Just nowhere to put a tent.

But I like a tent during the winter, I prefer one that has a mostly mesh inner. I sleep comfortably on an Xped air mat and sleep warm in my mummy bag with a beanie.

In wetlands I look for large patches of ferns instead of the tall grass you see in the photo above. Near fern groves the ground is usually higher & drier with fewer Cypress trees and many more Oaks, Hickory's, Gums, and pines. I can usually find a spot for a solo tent fairly easy.

I use this one the most, our winters are mild and rarely get below 15* F even with wind chills. The tent being mostly mesh lets me use it comfortably in warmer months.

I can move around in a tent without it moving, and that works well if I want to use it as a photo blind for birds, deer, etc.

In the background you can barely see the fern grove I was close to.
 I sometimes use the Tarp from my Hammock set up, and pair it with the mesh inner from my solo tent. The mesh inner tent makes a deluxe bug bivy. I pitch the tarp in porch mode and I can photograph out the door zipper.

You just do what works for you.

MG, I agree about doing what works for you. I'm open to trying new things but find I much prefer to wake up in the hammock and at a comfortable level above the ground.

I look forward to refining a UL ground alternative for further experimentation. Shelters are just tools, and every craftsman has their favorites they turn to more than others.

August 9, 2020
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